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Minute Of History: July 12, 2013

History Of The

Women’s Club Of Farmingdale

(Editor’s note: At the Village Pops Concert at the Farmingdale Village Green on Wednesday, June 26, Maria Ortolani, president of the Women’s Club of Farmingdale delivered this speech. The “Minute of History,” is a series of speeches delivered at the Pops Concerts throughout the summer.)

Before I begin, I’d like to thank Brad Demilo and the Village Pops band for presenting a beautiful musical concert. I’d also like to thank the Farmingdale/Bethpage Historical Society, and especially Mr. William Johnston, village historian, for inviting me to speak to you tonight about the history of the Women’s Club of Farmingdale.  

This year, the Women’s Club celebrated its centennial! One hundred years ago, when Abigail E. Leonard founded the Women’s Club, it consisted of 19 members. Today we have about 50 active members and 20 associate members.  

From its inception, our mission statement of the Women’s Club has remained basically the same—philanthropic endeavors, educational enrichment and community improvement.

Over the years, the Women’s Club has made many lasting contributions:

• During WWII, the club was active in the civil defense programs and equipped a complete bomb shelter in the old veteran’s hall.

• It secured drivers for the Burwood School for the Blind.

• The fountain that sits right here on the village green was a club community improvement project.

• One year, the club donated a kitchen for the Farmingdale Village Hall.

• Another year, club members hand stitched a beautiful quilt which still hangs in the village hall today.

• The club was responsible for erecting a visitor’s welcome sign and gazebo at the corner of Main Street and Melville Road, as well as landscaping the apex on Merritt Road and Hempstead Turnpike.

• Every year scholastic awards are presented to Farmingdale High School seniors. The last two years over $7,500 has been awarded.

• The Women’s Club originated “Art in the Park,” a club and community event held in the village green for three consecutive years. Monies raised were awarded to high school seniors planning to continue their arts education; and to commemorate this event; a park bench was donated for the village green.

• This month we held Red, White and Blue American Picnic at Allen Park where members raised $300 which was donated to the USO.  Since 1941, the USO has served as a “home away from home” for the men and women of our armed forces, during war and peace.  At the picnic, we were very honored to have in attendance Marine Sgt. Philicia Bangaru, Marine Sgt. Daniel Mueller and from West Point, Reservist Leigh Auletta.

• Our members volunteer on the Farmingdale Beautification Committee and can be seen planting fresh flowers along main street in the spring and decorating for the holidays in the fall.

• At our December holiday luncheon, our members donated $200 to a local family of triplets hard hit by Hurricane Sandy and $600 to the families of three members who suffered catastrophic losses from this storm.  

This past year was a very special year for the Women’s Club. To commemorate our 100th anniversary special events and activities were planned:

• The Women’s Club has published several cookbooks over the years and this year put together a special edition 100th anniversary cookbook.

• We held programs at our monthly meetings which included wonderful childhood memories of growing up in Farmingdale as seen through the eyes of former Farmingdale Mayor Butch Starkie, Farmingdale native, Dr. Ben Giminaro and several members who were born and raised here.

 They remembered when everyone had a metal milkbox near the back door and the milkman would walk around the house to fill it. There was only one school on Main Street that covered grades K-12. Children were free to play everywhere and no one bothered them. After high school, many of the boys went off to serve in WWII or went to work in Republic Airport where they were making Thunderbird Airplanes. Still others remembered Von Leison’s, Wolly’s, the 5-and-10, and the Main Street Movie House.

After high school, Butch Starkie and his brother set up a business, Butch’s Landscaping. They cut lawns for $3 and hedges for 50-cents. Eventually, through lots of hard work, it became Starkie Brothers. He credits Dr. Ben Giminaro with getting him involved in the Farmingdale Village where he recently served as mayor.

Dr. Ben, who worked as a boy at Stern’s Pickle Works, recalled that hotels and inns were numerous and it is believed that Charles Lindbergh stayed one night at the Pinelawn Hotel.

There were many more wonderfully interesting memories too numerous to list.

In April, the Farmingdale Public Library held an unveiling and reception for two Women’s Club memorials: a framed photo of our club founder, Abigail E. Leonard, who, by the way, also co-founded the Farmingdale Public Library, and a memorial plaque containing a group photo of current members and dedicated to all members, past, present and future.  

Both the plaque and photo are now permanently on display in the library.

Currently, the Women’s Club is lending its support to domestic violence awareness and prevention by promoting a program entitled, project night. Canvass tote bags are filled with a new blanket, an age-appropriate children’s book and a stuffed animal. The completed tote bags are donated to children in local homeless shelters.

Last October, in partnership with the Farmingdale Public Library, the Women’s Club presented an evening with renowned author, playwright, television comedy writer, and documentary filmmaker, Adriana Trigiani. Her most recent book, The Shoemaker’sWife, is on The New York Times bestseller list and was the topic of her discussion.

On a regular basis, we donate needy items to Madonna Heights, St. Kilian’s Outreach, and the Farmingdale Day Care Center and this year, our club was able to donate $600 to enable the Outreach Center to purchase meat products from the Farmingdale Meat Market.

We have a craft committee that has made American Girl Doll clothes for raffle baskets, preemie hats for newborns, knitted and crocheted hats and scarves for our service men and women, afghans and lapghans for nursing homes and the veterans administration, and colorful pillow cases for children in hospitals with serious illnesses.

Besides volunteering as clubwomen, our members sing in the choirs of local churches, volunteer or serve on the boards of local community organizations, including St. Joseph’s Hospital, the Farmingdale public library, the chamber of commerce and the village of Farmingdale town hall, volunteer at the Farmingdale Day Care Center, St. Kilian’s Outreach and Madonna Heights shelter.

And yet it is not all work and no play. Our members have set up a book club that meets regularly for lively discussions on various selections; members take an exercise class at a local church given by a personal trainer; members plan trips and outings to see plays, visit museums, attend book signings and even overnight sightseeing trips to neighboring cities.

We are a very busy club, but thankfully, the work is shared by many willing hands. You may have heard the expression “it takes a village” and in this case it certainly does. In addition to our committed and dedicated members, a heartfelt thank-you goes out to the Farmingdale community for always supporting our efforts.

I have just ended my first year of two-year term as president and I’d like to close by saying that it is an honor and a privilege to follow in the footsteps of the past presidents of the Women’s Club and its members.

It’s been 100 years,

But our work has only just begun

We’ll strive even harder

For the best is yet to come.  

Thank you all very much.

Maria Ortolani, president of the Women’s Club of Farmingdale